Why do we fast? Why do we sacrifice? Why do we want a relationship with God? What is our motivation?
Motivation is an important part of our decision-making process. Knowing why we do what we do helps us to understand the outcome. For example, if our motivation is selfish and things do not work out the way we hope that they might, we can become angry. On the other hand, if our motivation is the good of the other, then regardless of how things work out we have some peace with the outcome, regardless of whether it is good or bad.
The motivation described by the prophet Isaiah from Mass today suggests the people God is addressing are fasting not because they want to grow in love of God and neighbor, but because they want to be noticed. They want credit. They expect something in return because of their having sacrificed.
The problem is that the way they have gone about the sacrifices they believe they have made is that they are not sacrifices at all. They are selfish attempts to be rewarded for what they perceive was a sacrifice. They are only concerned with what they get.
The purpose of fasting and sacrifice is two-fold: becoming closer to God and loving more fully our neighbor. It helps us to recognize the ways in which we are not fully embracing God.
Isaiah tells the people that the fasting God wishes is the type of service that considers the hungry, the poor, the needy, the homeless.
Let us pray.
Dear Jesus, During this Lenten season I want to become closer to you. I know that if I really love you, then I will sacrifice something to conquer my selfishness and to help others. Help me to recognize what I must do, and what I must reject, so that I may grow in faith and love. Stretch my heart so that I can do the fasting you desire this Lent. I pray in your name. Amen.
Music: Cheezy Piano Medley by Alexander Nakarada